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I’ve Read the Nuclear Deal, Mr. President, and It’s Awful

I’ve Read the Nuclear Deal, Mr. President, and It’s Awful

Deal rewrites history: Iran committed no violations in the past

In his combative press conference last week to defend the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, President Barack Obama issued the following challenge:

So to go back to Congress, I challenge those who are objecting to this agreement, number one, to read the agreement before they comment on it; number two, to explain specifically where it is that they think this agreement does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and why they’re right and people like Ernie Moniz, who is an MIT nuclear physicist and an expert in these issues, is wrong, why the rest of the world is wrong, and then present an alternative.

First off it’s worth noting that Energy Secretary and MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz said back in April that to be effective the deal would have to include “anytime, anywhere,” inspections, so Obama’s explanation about why 24 days notice is now good enough fails to convince me.

I want Moniz to explain why he changed his position on this AND why 24 days is now acceptable. I would like Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes to explain why he walked back his comments on requiring “anytime, anywhere” inspections.

And I want a more convincing explanation than negotiator Wendy Sherman’s excuse that the term was just a “rhetorical flourish.” (If that was a rhetorical flourish, I’m curious how many other administration comments about the nuclear deal were rhetorical flourishes.)

But in that paragraph, Obama limits the grounds of questioning the deal to whether the language of the deal is insufficient to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear breakout over the course of the deal.

Here’s where I have problem. Even if the agreement was airtight, and I doubt that it is, there’s a matter of the administration’s behavior during the Joint Plan of Action, which was agreed to in November 2013. The problem is that the Obama administration has acted as “Iran’s attorney” covering for Iran’s violations of the previous agreement.

In a notable episode last month, administration officials attacked The New York Times for reporting that Iran would likely fail to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by the June 30 deadline. In the end Iran did reduce its stockpile but not by the method prescribed and not to the form that it was required to.

The nonproliferation think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, earlier this month, explained why the administration’s behavior in this case was troubling:

The reason is not that somehow one form or other of LEU oxide is harder to turn back into hexafluoride form for use in a breakout. This is almost irrelevant to the debate. Unfortunately, these main forms of LEU oxide are straightforward to convert back and use during a breakout. That is a principal reason that in a final deal the United States wants all but 300 kilograms (kg) of Iran’s near 10,000 kg of LEU shipped out of the country or blended down to natural uranium. The United States is now making a very narrow interpretation of this provision in the JPA, and an interpretation that is at odds with its previous positions and common sense. It is also an interpretation that appears to favor Iran and not the United States. Reaching this interpretation seems overly driven by the administration’s fear of Congress. The administration appears to have lost sight of the true adversary in its on-going battle with Congress.

This weakening of interpretations is a bad precedent for the future. This case signals a U.S. willingness to legally reinterpret the deal when Iran cannot do what it said it would do, in order to justify that non-performance. The United States should have said, like we do, that Iran has not met its commitment in the JPA on this issue and fully explained the status of the stocks and what the future remedy will be. It should have used that position as leverage to gain additional concessions from Iran. Experts and Congress may have noted the discrepancy with concern but few would have advocated walking away from the JPA as a result of a frank discussion of this issue last winter or even now.

So President Obama made a point of appealing to science or scientific expertise as proof that his deal is solid, but when science said that a previous deal wasn’t being observed, the administration attacked the science!

President Obama insists that the fear of “snapback sanctions” (probably unworkable) will keep Iran from cheating. But if the administration’s past performance is any indication, Iran has nothing to fear. There will be no “snapback’s” if no violation is declared. If the administration papered over Iranian violations to keep negotiations going, what are the chances it will declare Iran in violation now that a new agreement has been reached?

Obama Press Conf Iran Deal July 15 2015

So Obama’s challenge doesn’t work on two levels. The science might not be right and the problems with the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), extend to more than just what’s written in the deal.

But there’s another aspect to the deal that’s disturbing. I will quote a few non-contiguous items from the deal:

18. The UN Security Council resolution endorsing this JCPOA will terminate all provisions of previous UN Security Council resolutions on the Iranian nuclear issue – 1696 (2006), 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), 1835 (2008), 1929 (2010) and 2224 (2015) – simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation of agreed nuclear-related measures by Iran and will establish specific restrictions, as specified in Annex V.

26. The EU will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions that it has terminated implementing under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA. There will be no new nuclear related UN Security Council sanctions and no new EU nuclear-related sanctions or restrictive measures. The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. Iran
has stated that it will treat such a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions specified in Annex II, or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions, as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part

36. If Iran believed that any or all of the E3/EU+3 were not meeting their commitments under this JCPOA, Iran could refer the issue to the Joint Commission for resolution; similarly, if any of the E3/EU+3 believed that Iran was not meeting its commitments under this JCPOA, any of the E3/EU+3 could do the same. The Joint Commission would have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless the time period was extended by consensus. After Joint Commission consideration, any participant could refer the issue to Ministers of Foreign Affairs, if it believed the compliance issue had not been resolved. Ministers would have 15 days to resolve the issue, unless the time period was extended by consensus. After Joint Commission consideration – in parallel with (or in lieu of) review at the Ministerial level – either the complaining participant or the participant whose performance is in question could request that the issue be considered by an Advisory Board, which would consist of three members (one each appointed by the participants in the dispute and a third independentmember). The Advisory Board should provide a non-binding opinion on the compliance issue within 15 days. If, after this 30-day process the issue is not resolved, the Joint Commission would consider the opinion of the Advisory Board for no more than 5 days in order to resolve the issue. If the issue still has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complaining participant, and if the complaining participant deems the issue to constitute significant nonperformance, then that participant could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part and/or notify the UN Security Council that it believes the issue constitutes significant non-performance.

37. … Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.

Item (18) quoted above means that all of the resolutions involving Iran’s failure to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will be erased. These resolutions were passed because Iran pursued an enrichment program outside of its NPT obligations and failed to account for all of its past nuclear research.

Iran has maintained its enrichment program, and will be allowed to continued it under the terms of the JCPOA. It still has not come clean about its past nuclear work, and for the sanctions relief to take hold, Iran apparently only has to commit to admitting its past nuclear work to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The JCPOA, in effect, legalizes Iran’s years of violations and rewards them for limiting their level of violations in the future.

The best analogy I could think of would be a corporation having been found in violation of emission standards for years agreeing to a deal that would absolve them of all fines accumulated over the years, have the violations expunged from government records and allowing the corporation to continue polluting at 50% over the standards instead of 100%.

Item (36) is curious too. I know that Iran’s Foreign Minister started off these negotiations with a presentation calling the crisis over its nuclear program an “unnecessary crisis.”

All along Iran called the sanctions “illegal.” So part of its goal was not just to get the sanctions removed, but to rewrite history so that Iran becomes the aggrieved party. By agreeing to cancel all the relevant Security Council resolutions about Iran’s nuclear program, the P5+1 nations are effectively rewriting history to Iran’s benefit. Worse, the Joint Commission empowers Iran to bring complaints against the other nations involved.

If the IAEA detected a violation and, say, France initiated an action against Iran in the Joint Commission, (another reason “snapback” is a fantasy), what would stop Iran from bringing some arbitrary action against France, and offer to drop it if France drops its action? I’m not a lawyer, maybe this is addressed elsewhere, but based on Iran’s behavior they will take advantage of any opening it is afforded in the deal.

And this brings us to (37) and the end of (26). If the process of finding Iran in violation is completed and an effort is made to reimpose sanctions, what is to stop Iran from saying, “okay we’re leaving the JCPOA.” Obama has said that this negotiation process has kept a rein on Iran’s nuclear development, but doesn’t this mean that an attempt to re-impose sanctions if Iran is found in breach of its obligations could mean that Iran could then legally “cease performing” its JCPOA obligations?

I see that (26) has language about the dispute resolution process, but if Iran loses that process and still maintains that it committed no breach, what’s to stop Iran from saying it was framed? Remember that the JCPOA rewrites history saying that Iran committed no violations in the past, what’s to stop Iran from doing that again,especially when there’s language that seems to preemptively gives them the means to do so?

So yes, Mr. President I have read the deal. Given the combination of your administration’s behavior and what’s written in this document, it is awful.

[Photo: European External Action Service / Flickr ]

 

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Comments

I think this agreement pretty much guarantees a nuclear war in the Middle East. I hope it’s preemptive. Obama makes a big deal about the effect of climate change on our grand children. This agreement puts our grand children at far greater risk.

From the looks of the “good” Professor’s bio, he has never worked with weapons tech, just energy production THEORY. He also appears to be part of the Green Machine, having been the co-founder of an organization that: “The principal objectives of CREF are the advancement of knowledge and its humane and benevolent application and the establishment of a new research and educational public-benefit organization which shall generally promote research and education in Cyprus and abroad and shall aim primarily at benefitting the public interest at large.”
“humane” and “benevolent”. Words frequently used by people to justify the opposite.

Any inspection policy that isn’t “show up when we feel like it”, allows them to hide what they are doing. Any policy that allows the inspectee to say where the inspectors are allowed to inspect allows them to hide things. When it comes to Sociopaths developing Nuclear Technology, any policy that does either is suicidal.

bobinreverse | July 19, 2015 at 11:39 am

Yea. The usual blither here. Key element hers is obama hates congress lives iran as now constituted. Congress is whitety / traditional us. Iran are the brothers and down with the struggle.

Again 2 basic elements of obama policy are nuke proliferation and use against Israel and eventually us and racial strife in us his 2 proxy armies are iran outside U.S. and blacks here in us.

One name. Valerie Jarrett. IRANIAN BORN Valeria Jarrett. I don’t know if she is a closet muslim or not, but I wonder how many “friends” she has left in her homeland? Jarrett IS the White House. Remember how she kept Bin Laden from getting raided for 6-7 months. Gotta wonder whose side she is on.

And in the wings, we have Huma Abodeen, Hildabeast’s right hand woman. Anthony Weiner’s girlfriend/wife, whatever. We KNOW Huma is muslim. And pro-“Palestinian”. Seems like another group took the “Manchurian candidate” more seriously than we did.

    Milhouse in reply to Fiftycaltx. | July 22, 2015 at 12:13 am

    What possible difference could it make where she was born? And why would you even wonder whether she might be a Moslem? Why would she be? It’s no more likely than her being a Buddhist. Above all, how on earth could she have any friends there? Do you have any friends from when you were a baby?

Gaze upon Zarif. The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” applies in this instance.

    David Gerstman in reply to JP. | July 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Yes, JP it’s a few months ago but I love reusing it for the reason you give.

why the rest of the world is wrong, and then present an alternative.

Ah yes, Obama’s delusions of adequacy on display once again. “The World” obviously must agree with Obama, because … because … well, because he’s Obama.

But the rest is just another of his perversions of Federal government. It’s not the job of Congress to present an alternative; the Executive negotiates any alternatives, and the Senate says “OK” or “No Way”.

Article 2, Sec. II is pretty clear on this—[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties …

There’s nothing in there about the Senate, or any portion of the Legislature, having Power to craft or negotiate treaties. And the Advice can be (and should be) direct and to the point—”Try again.”

Sammy Finkelman | July 19, 2015 at 1:13 pm

If the IAEA detected a violation and, say, France initiated an action against Iran in the Joint Commission, (another reason “snapback” is a fantasy), what would stop Iran from bringing some arbitrary action against France, and offer to drop it if France drops its action?

Exactly right.

But what you are doing is reading between the lines of the agreement.

To really understand what it means you have to read not just the words of the agreement, but between the lines.

And even without that kind of a negotiating ploy by Iran, Iran might not necessarily be called when it violates the agrreement, especially if you only say it is violating it because of very technical expert trace isotopic analysis.

President Clinton deliberatly prevented North Korea of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, and instead renegotiated the agreement, with a little help from Jimmy Carter.

    David Gerstman in reply to Sammy Finkelman. | July 19, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Sammy- thank you. I’m not a lawyer, but why do I seem to be the first person to have pointed this out? A lot of the agreement is technical jargon and the organization is so convoluted to make a straight reading of it nearly impossible. But some stuff is relatively straightforward. And I thought this was.

    Frank G in reply to Sammy Finkelman. | July 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    “President Clinton deliberatly prevented North Korea of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, and instead renegotiated the agreement, with a little help from Jimmy Carter.”

    Uh huh. That worked out soooo well

      Sammy Finkelman in reply to Frank G. | July 19, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      I meant to say:

      “President Clinton deliberately prevented North Korea from being declared in violation” of the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, and instead renegotiated the agreement, with a little help from Jimmy Carter.”

      This all happened in 1994. Jimmy Carter’s trip to North Korea was officially called private.

Sammy Finkelman | July 19, 2015 at 1:24 pm

You missed a very strong weakness in (26)

26. The EU will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions that it has terminated implementing under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA. There will be no new nuclear related UN Security Council sanctions and no new EU nuclear-related sanctions or restrictive measures. The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II.

Although it does not explicitly say so, this comes close to outlawing the re-imposition of the same sanctions, for a different reason

And if they were imposed – even in response to Iran committing an act of war against the United States, blocking or mining the Strait of Hormuz, invading or getting into a war with another country, or shooting down an airliner, not to mention sponsoring acts of war or terrorism by others – Iran could claim that there had been a violation of the terms of the agreement.

    David Gerstman in reply to Sammy Finkelman. | July 19, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Sammy, I thought something like that was possible. I also didn’t want to overstate my case. Thank you. As Lando said this deal keeps getting worse and worse.

      Sammy Finkelman in reply to David Gerstman. | July 19, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      What is possible? Similar sanctions to be imposed, or the agrreement to be understood as prohibiting similar sanctions?

      I think the agreement does NOT clearly prohibit the reimposition of the same sanctions for other reasons, but Iran could argue anything like that to be a violation.

      But this might stop someone from evenbringing up the idea of a new UN arms embargo beyond the five years.

      This probably does not bother President Obama very much because he’s not expecting to try to re-impose international sanctions on Iran for other reasons, nor does he expect any other important country to agree to it.

      He thinks, or claims, that the sanctions regime was in danger of collapsing. (not sure what sanctions he is talking about. Oil purchases only?)

        David Gerstman in reply to Sammy Finkelman. | July 19, 2015 at 2:18 pm

        Sammy, I think the reason the sanctions regime was in danger of collapsing was because of Obama himself. He wasn’t interested in maintaining Iran as an enemy, and anyone who could benefit from lifting sanctions sensed it. So they collapsed. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          Sammy Finkelman in reply to David Gerstman. | July 19, 2015 at 9:18 pm

          I don’t it actually wa sin danger of collapsing. A few countries, cponceivably, might break way, or never really begin, because some countris never really began, but that’s not sanctions collapsing, especially Iran’s isolation from the SWIFT payment system.

          I also don’t think other nations went along because they agreed with the United States BOTH as to importance of preventing Iran getting and atomic bomb and as to the value of the sanctions. Of course, in arguing for the U.S. to limit its objectives, they conceded the point, and argued only that no other objectives should be added to it. here’s no point in trying to argue somebody out of something he’s absolutely committed to.

          I also think the reason Russia and China signed on to the sanctions in the first place was that the alternative was U.S. military action, which they liked even less, probably becaus ethey calculated it might possibly lead to the end of the regime there, and who knows then what we might find out then about those two countries’ dealings with Iran..

Sammy Finkelman | July 19, 2015 at 1:34 pm

It looks like only sanctions imposed by the United States (or any other complaining party) would be snapped back unilaterally.

But in the event of there being an unresolved issue, (and we can expect Iran, Russia and China at least to question the science, no matter how good Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the forensic science is) the Security Council resolution wouldn’t snap back.

It’s not clear to me if they would snap back with the agreement of the USA, Britain, France, the EU and Germany. Maybe this requires careful textual analysis. And a lot will depend upon who is going to be doing that. Someone like Anthony Scalia, John Roberts and maybe Anthony Kennedy? And what if someone is trying to affect the result?

(37) means that, without actually acknowledging it is violation of the agreement, Iran could unilaterally withdraw from it.

Therefore, it has to make sense for Iran to keep this agreement at every point in time, and everyone else has to be prepared for Iran to declare it void at any point in time.

    David Gerstman in reply to Sammy Finkelman. | July 19, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    “Therefore, it has to make sense for Iran to keep this agreement at every point in time, and everyone else has to be prepared for Iran to declare it void at any point in time.”

    This is frightening, but I think it’s correct. The deal, I thought, was designed to make it next to impossible to re-impose sanctions on Iran, and that’s consistent with your encapsulation of the deal.

Sammy Finkelman | July 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

I have proposed that Congress, whatever else it does, pass a Joint Resolution stating that Iran does not have immunity from having sanctions placed on it for any other reason.

(plus a few other ideas)

Also that this agreement is not legally binding, and that
our interest does not end after 10 or 15 years, and if Iran looks like it might move toward a nuclear bomb, it is the sense of the Congress that sanctions should be imposed even before the agreement expires.

It would be argued that all this goes without saying, but this would stiffen the spine of future U.S. officeholders.

Obama, the Gollum (or Golem) craves the ring of power and none of the consequences attributed to its malevolent uses.

Obama’s use of the ring of power, “my precious fiats”, WILL destroy many lives, at home and abroad.

bobinreverse | July 19, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Wonder what an Iranian lawyer thinks about this? Or maybe you can get an opinion from ms mosby in balto. She may be prez sometime down the line.

Come on folks(Barry) wake up

O’Connel should schedule a vote on ratification for this Treaty ASAP. When it is rejected it will be null and void as far as the USA is concerned.

Sammy Finkelman | July 21, 2015 at 10:33 am

Very apt comment by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal: (one I thought of myself, too)

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2015/07/21/the_iran_deal039s_collapsing_rationale_361573.html

The Iran deal is supposed to prevent a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East. So what better way to get that ball of hopefulness rolling than by arming our regional allies to the teeth?

The answer would be I suppose, either:

A) Obama was talking about a nuclear arms race – except that there’s a problem with that, too,
although it is less visible.

B) They are just making things up as they go along.

The UN Security Council resolution has a different provision. Paragraphs 11 and 12 say that if any party informs the Security Council that it beleives Iran is not complying, then the Council has 30 days in which to pass a resolution continuing the termination of the sanctions; if it doesn’t pass such a resolution within 30 days, then the termination ends, and all UN sanctions on Iran snap back into place. This does not require a vote, so Russia and China can’t stop it. And the USA can veto a resolution to continue the termination. Which means President Walker can start the clock ticking on 20-Jan-2017 and the sanctions would automatically come back into effect on 19-Feb.

Officially, at least. I expect that if that were to happen Russia and China would just refuse to go along with it, regardless of “binding international law”.

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